About Life and Death

by Anna

Probably the most controversial question in the world: “Who are we to decide to artificially prolong life by any means but not grant someone their wish to die whose illness is taking over their life up to the point that they lose all control?”

During my work in a nursing home I could never quite get over the question what the purpose is for someone who is classed as confused, incontinent and immobile with hearing and visual impairment, practically incapable of doing anything for themselves, requiring full-time care. Certainly it can’t be justified to say that this person is a waste of space. There are human rights that tell us to respect each individual and give all care in a dignified way. But where is that dignity and respect in regard to that person not wanting to live anymore? It is against the law to aid death, even if the person requests it. Is death really that bad that we have to do everything we can to keep someone alive even if they want to die?

Those who decide over another’s life are usually the relatives, husband or wife, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, who don’t want to accept that it is the end, by stating that they want resuscitation by any means in order to prolong that life a little bit longer. Nobody asks the soul in that body if it can stand the pain and if it would like to stay a bit longer or if it has learned enough and would like to go home. It is being forced to carry on with pain or without by loving relatives who can’t say goodbye but who mostly couldn’t or wouldn’t care for it either. So it spends the last months of it’s life alone in it’s room with carers who are always busy only stopping by to give the standard care, food and drinks.

I now work in a clinical environment where the main aim is to get people up and going again, but obviously also to be there when the end arrives. Countless times have elderly patients responded to my question of how they are with “Just shoot me”, “I just want to die”, “Please let me go” and one patient only recently continuously prayed to God to please take him and release him from his suffering. This is heart breaking and I feel such a fool by answering “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

All I can do is to make them as comfortable as possible and to just be there for them if they need you. When will we realise that in some cases we have to accept the end and move on. It is not up to us to decide to artificially prolong life, but still we do. Instead we ought to be allowed to end our lives when we knowingly enter a stage in life from which we know there will be no going up. But by law, this is not granted. And I am well aware of the danger and the thought process behind it.

I recently happened to listen to the end of a discussion on television in which a disabled man, who was unable to communicate properly, confined to a wheelchair, asked to be able to end his life. The opposing person (I unfortunately didn’t catch who he was) explained that they simply can’t justify to take someones life. Right they are, we can’t. And I understand that the general fear would be that others would take advantage of it and use it for their own gain, not in favour of someone’s disability. But that’s why it is important to be able to make an informed decision while we are still fully compos mentis. Unfortunately, life sometimes happens unexpectedly.

The biggest issue, I think, is death itself. But who says that death really is the end?
Due to the drastic improvements in medicines, more and more people are now reporting so called near death experiences(NDE). Advances in medical science and the fact that more people die in hospitals rather than at home means that more people are being successfully resuscitated and therefore more likely to experience a NDE. Already in 1937, an anonymous physician described his NDEs but was worried about the effect of going public. Until today, death is still the ultimate taboo. Billions are spent on keeping dying patients alive for a few extra days or weeks, prolonging their agony in exchange for a few precious moments of life. Because life is everything and death is seen as the ultimate full stop.

Because those that had been clinically dead had brought back clear memories of what was going on around them it suggests that consciousness might not be located in the brain. So, if our consciousness and awareness of who we are isn’t located in the brain is there a chance that it also doesn’t die with the brain? This is the crux of the near death experience debate. Are those reporting tunnels, beings of light, meeting deceased relatives simply recounting fantasies brought on by medications or brain chemicals or the body’s natural reaction to trauma?

Whether it is real or not, if death is good or bad is not the final question. Certainly, we have free will and the choice to come back or stay away, don’t we? If only our physical body remains, maintained by machinery, where are we? Do we really want to go back into a body that doesn’t function properly anymore. A “vehicle” that we can’t control? This brings us back to our life plan. Certainly, if our plan is to make a change or bring attention to this issue we will live and fight for it.

I think it is ironical that society is spending more and more on the latest machinery to “fix” people’s physical problems, put them back together, make them live longer but at the same time creating chaos because society isn’t prepared for the increasing amount of people who live longer but need fulltime care. The mind isn’t necessarily equipped to follow the prolonged life of the body, thus creating more and more cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It seems as if the soul’s purpose had been achieved and it was the natural time for the body to disintegrate, but that process was prevented and so created a zombie-like entity which lives but doesn’t function properly anymore. Not to mention the pension problems…. When will we realise that life and death go hand in hand and are the most natural part of our existence, in actual fact have been ever since the world was created zillions of years ago.

I do have to point out here that I don’t look at individuals but generally at the question why we are to artificially prolong life but not help those with a terminal disease who are well aware that their condition will stop them from carrying on their normal life and that due to these circumstances they do not want to carry on living. I refer to informed decisions. Another issue would certainly be the soul purpose and the general growth by experience of a soul. There a plenty of things to consider but none of them will justify the suffering of a human being which is bed bound, in pain, unable to move any part of the body apart from facial expressions and hushed words which clearly state they don’t want to live anymore.

And while this question is not for me to be answered I will keep on concentrating on each individual at any stage of their life to help them as much as I can in making their time on this planet worthwhile and a little bit more bearable. On the way I am practicing compassion and begin more and more to see the Inner Self of people, their true being, which shines through regardless of their physical age and which appears to work more on a heart-to-heart connection than mere words. We ought to learn to listen more with our heart.